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Caring For House Plants

Plant Lighting for the Home

Aside from food and water, one of the most crucial requirements for plant existence is light.
Plants absorb light and convert it into sugars and starches, which they require to grow and survive.

Plants suffer from a lack of light or inadequate light.

If we pay attention to our plants, they will tell us if their basic needs, particularly light, are being addressed.

If your plant turns pale or spindly, it’s telling you that it needs more light.
It will also gravitate toward the brightest light source.

Another sign of insufficient light is if a flowering plant produces no flowers or only faint blooms.

The soil in the container will be constantly damp, causing root rot and the plant’s death.

The amount of light required by each plant differs.

Taking note of the lighting requirements that are normally supplied with your plant purchase is the best way to know ahead of time.

Flowering house plants, on the other hand, typically demand more light than foliage plants.

Seasonal Variables Must Be Considered

During the summer, the sun is straight overhead, and in the winter, it is well to the south.
Year-round, north-facing windows receive the least amount of light.

During the summer, windows with a southern orientation receive the greatest light and heat.

In the winter, they still get a lot of light, but it’s not as powerful as it is in the summer (hot).

Because of these seasonal variations, plant positioning is critical.

You could wish to use a dynamic approach to plant placement, as I call it.

The dynamic strategy necessitates that plants be moved according to the light requirements of the individual plants as the seasons change.

The dynamic method allows you to be more creative.

Experiment with different groupings.

Up a south window during the winter, mix in some foliage plants with flowering plants.
Then, throughout the summer, build a new exhibit.

Sources of Window Light

Window to the South
Year-round light; ideal for plants that require a lot of light; exposure provides a larger region of light.

Window to the East
Considered to be the best all-around exposure; cooler than a west window; warm early morning light; brilliant light for the majority of the day; suitable for both blooming and foliage plants.

Window to the West
Receives warmer afternoon sun and strong light for the majority of the day; only negative is that some plants may become overheated; suitable for flowering and foliage plants.

Window to the North
No sun, but brilliant light in the summer: coldest window in the home, especially in the winter (may be draughty); primarily for foliage plants.

The Use of Artificial Light

Artificial lighting can be used to help meet plant lighting requirements.

Of course, natural light is preferable, but a dark nook might sometimes be an ideal location for a particular plant.

However, not all artificial light sources will work.

A bad source is incandescent light (a standard bulb like a house lamp).

If the plant is already getting some natural light, they might be able to aid.

Fluorescent and halogen lamps are the best sources of artificial light.

Their output is remarkably similar to that of natural light, and plants thrive in their presence.

Ensure that the plants receive 12 to 14 hours of light for the greatest outcomes.
A timer would save you a lot of time and effort in this situation.

To avoid overheating, avoid placing the light too close to the plant.

Controlling Humidity in the Home

Plants require humidity to survive.

Herbaceous plants, did you know, require water to survive?

Water is similar to air in a balloon to the plant.

When air is pumped into the limp balloon, it becomes firm.

When water fills the cells of a herbaceous plant, it becomes able to stand up.
Plants wilt as a result of a lack of water.

When a plant is exposed to dry air, it loses a lot of its reserve water while it breathes.
The amount of moisture escaping the plant is slowed by the amount of moisture in the air around it.

As a result, it is critical not only for the roots to have moisture, but also for the surrounding air.

Plants with thick, waxy, or leathery leaves, such as cactus (succulents), can handle dry air better than others.

For dry days, they store water in their leaves and stems.

Similar to how a camel stores water for long desert treks.

Plants with thinner leaves are more vulnerable to dehydration due to a lack of moisture in the air.

To put it another way, the higher the humidity, the better.

However, I say this with a “tongue-in-cheek” tone.

Don’t overdo it with the dampness; it’s the perfect breeding habitat for fungus.

Pay attention to your plants once again because their symptoms will indicate whether the air is too dry.

Dry air is indicated by curled leaves and dry leaf tips.

Flower buds might turn brown and fall off as a result of dry air.

A house that is energy efficient can be a plant’s biggest enemy.

Humidity levels in the average home are less than 30%!

In certain energy-efficient homes, the cost is even lower.

Even cactus and other succulents don’t like it.

Another consideration is the location of your residence.

The West/Southwest has a lot of low-humidity locations.

Humidity is particularly high in the South and Northeast.

A relative humidity (amount of moisture in the air) of 50 to 60% is good for plants.

The air conditioning system is another “varmint” for plants.

An air conditioner removes moisture from the air to cool the house.

What can you do to increase the humidity?

There are several methods for adding moisture to the air.

Plants should be placed in saucers.

Pour water into the saucer.

The water from the saucer will evaporate, adding moisture to the air immediately surrounding the plant.

CAUTION!
Allowing the bottom of the pot to sit in the water is not a good idea.

This can result in root rot, fungal growth, and other issues.

Keep the pot lifted above the water with something.

Saucers are included with certain pots to keep the pot above the water collection.
If you don’t have any of these, simply lay huge rocks in the saucer to keep the pot from sitting straight in the water.

In low-humidity environments, a humidifier is ideal.


This is an optional function of certain installed air conditioning systems.As a final option, use a water bottle sprayer to spritz the plants.

It’s excellent, but there’s still more work to be done.

Misting systems are used exclusively for watering plants in some commercial greenhouses.

Air Circulation and House Plants

Plants in the house need to be able to breathe without being blown away.

Plants require varied levels of ventilation (air movement) for a variety of reasons.

Ventilation helps to avoid heat buildup, the release of toxic gases, and the spread of diseases that are common in enclosed spaces.

There may be “dead areas” in a home where there is little or no air movement.

The problem might be caused by incorrect air distribution from the HVAC system or by the location of walls that prevent good air movement.

Of course, the situation exacerbates the issue of dirty air.

Correcting the problem’s causes can be costly.

There is another option.

If you’re utilising plant lights (which generate heat), look for a different place.

If not, place a modest fan in the room to help move the air around the issue region.

Avoid blowing directly on the plants with the fan.

The plants will be dried out by the fan’s constant fast air.

Plants should be placed near a window if one is available.

The temperature differences caused by the window cause some air movement.
For plants, this is usually sufficient.

Do the candle test to see if your plants are getting enough air circulation.

Place a candle in the affected region and light it.

There is sufficient air circulation if the candle flickers at all.

Controlling the temperature

Are you and your houseplants at odds when it comes to temperature regulation?

Make the greatest decision for yourself!

No need to be concerned about the houseplants.

Doesn’t that sound a little egotistical?

When it comes to temperature control for both you and your house plants, you can be as creative as you want.

When it comes to temperature, they enjoy what you like.

The majority of our house plants are native to tropical settings with daily temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

That is the temperature range in which we normally keep our thermostats set.
Voila!

But wait, there’s more.

There could still be some issues.

Problems comparable to the ones we mentioned earlier with air movement.

A plant can be shocked by sudden temperature fluctuations, whether they are too hot or too cold.

Bringing a plant from a chilly climate on the front porch to the warm air inside, for example.
While transferring the plant, it’s ideal to do so when the outdoor and inside temperatures are pretty near.

Wilting or the loss of leaves are the most common signs of plant shock.

The plant, in general, becomes ill.

The plant may not appear as healthy as before if the changes are not as significant as those described (assuming of course that it was healthy to begin with).

Shock can stifle healthy development.

Plants exposed to extended periods of time without air conditioning or warmth may experience shock (gone on vacation for example).

Arrangements should be made to keep them from being exposed to harsh weather.

One final word of warning.

Drafts should be avoided at all costs.

With draughts come abrupt temperature swings, which can harm plants.

Fertilizing Indoor Plants

The Basics of Fertilization

Before we go any farther, let’s review some fertiliser fundamentals.


I’m sure you’ve seen the three numerals “13-13-13 or 6-12-4” on fertiliser canisters before.
The first number reflects the percentage of nitrogen (N) in the mixture, the second number represents the percentage of phosphorus (P), and the third number is the percentage of potassium (K) in the mixture.

Nitrogen fosters healthy green foliage growth, phosphorus encourages root growth and flowering, and potassium aids in the building of reserves in dormant plants.

Fertilizers are available in a variety of forms.

Fertilizer comes in a variety of forms to suit the location and use of the fertiliser.


A good lawn fertiliser, for example, comes in a “pelletized” form for delayed release and to avoid “burning” the grass from too much acid at once, as the crushed form does (the type mixed in the soil for vegetable gardens).


What is healthy for grass isn’t always beneficial for houseplants or other container-grown plants.

When fertiliser breaks down to offer nutrients to the soil for plants, harmful salts are produced as a by-product.


The elements of rain, sunshine, and the soil drain these salts out of the soil, rendering them harmless.

This leaching mechanism is not as effective in container soil as it is in outside soil.
As a result, toxic salts accumulate over time, harming the plants.

To prevent the build-up of toxic salts in container-grown plants, special fertilisers have been created.


These fertilisers are available in both liquid and granular form.
Ozmocote, Peters Special, and other brand names are among them.

When to Fertilize and How to Fertilize

The most effective way to fertilise is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Here’s an extra step I employ for container plants that aren’t too challenging for me to handle.

Typically, these are plants in hanging baskets and containers with a capacity of less than three gallons.

This extra step not only fertilises the plant, but also provides it with a decent hydration.

If I’m using a liquid or water-soluble fertiliser (which is less expensive), I’ll mix it into the water according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

The container holding the plant is placed in a #3 wash tub (available at most hardware stores) to confine the mixture.

The plants are left in the water until all bubbling has stopped, at which point they are removed.

If I’m not using a liquid fertiliser, I’ll water the plants with regular tap water in the same way.

The plants will be removed once the bubbling has stopped, and the granular fertiliser will be applied as directed.

During the warmer summer months, I utilise this procedure around twice.

The “constant feed” strategy is another option.


A soilless combination is now used in many container plants, which necessitates a lot of care.

Fertilizing each time you water is an easy method to ensure proper nutrition.

With each watering, use 1/4 of the recommended fertiliser amount.

Run clean water over the soil once a month or so until the water running out the bottom appears to be clear.

This aids in the removal of any fertiliser or dangerous salt buildup.

House Plants in Pots

How can I tell when it’s time to re-pot my plants?

Take a thorough look at your houseplant and make the following observations:

After a proper watering, the plant begins to wilt within a day or two.

The plant has a proclivity towards toppling over.

On the lip of the container and, in some cases, on the plant’s stem, a white or yellowish scale appears.

Any one of these three situations warrants repotting.

Repotting suggestions.

Hold the plant’s stem in one hand and the pot’s bottom with the other.

Shake the saucepan gently by turning it upside down.

The rootball and plant should be able to slide out of the pot.

If not, return the pot to its original position and run a knife around the inside of the pot, between the rootball and the container.

Use a knife that is long enough to reach the container’s bottom.

Turn the plant upside down and slip it out of the pot once more.

Remove roughly a third of the soil from the rootball now that it has been exposed.

Remove any broken or dead roots from the remainder of the rootball.

Some people may disagree, but I take an additional step at this point.

About a third of the remaining roots should be cut back.

Where the root was chopped off, new roots will grow.

The plant will have more roots to collect moisture and nourishment as it grows in its new pot, resulting in a healthier growing plant.

I’ll also water down the rootball before putting it in its new container.

After the plant has been re-potted, this helps to reduce shock and wilt.

This is an excellent time to soak the rootball in a liquid fertiliser mixture before inserting it in the container.

When preparing the liquid fertiliser combination, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Allow some room between the container’s top and the rootball’s surface.

This serves as a storage area for water until the rootbal can absorb it.

If there isn’t enough room, the water will rush off rather than soak in.

It also gives the water time to wash into the soil around the roots, preventing air pockets from forming inside the rootball.

If you did not apply a liquid fertiliser mixture when the rootball was wetted down, now is the time to fertilise.

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